A man who may have been keeping a wild kangaroo as a pet was killed by the animal in southwest Australia, police said Tuesday. It was reportedly the first fatal attack by a kangaroo in Australia since 1936.
A relative found the 77-year-old man with “serious injuries” on his property Sunday in semirural Redmond, 250 miles southeast of the Western Australia state capital Perth.
It was believed he had been attacked earlier in the day by the kangaroo, which police shot dead because it was preventing paramedics from reaching the injured man, police said.
“The kangaroo was posing an ongoing threat to emergency responders,” the statement said.
The man died at the scene. Police are preparing a report for a coroner who will record an official cause to death.
The man was identified by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as Peter Eades, a local alpaca breeder. Police believe he had been keeping the wild kangaroo as a pet.
There are legal restrictions on keeping Australian native fauna as pets, but the police media office said Tuesday they had no information to make public regarding whether the victim had a permit.
Tanya Irwin, who cares for macropods at the Native Animal Rescue service in Perth, said authorities rarely issue permits to keep kangaroos in Western Australia.
“This looks like it was an adult male and they become quite aggressive and they don’t do well in captivity,” Irwin said.
“We don’t know what the situation was; If he was in pain or why he was being kept in captivity and unfortunately … they’re not a cute animal, they’re a wild animal,” Irwin added.
Irwin said her rescue center always rehabilitates native animals with the aim of returning them to the wild, particularly kangaroos.
“You do need a special permit to be able to do that. I don’t believe they really give them out very often unless you’re a wildlife center with trained people who know what they’re doing,” she said.
Western gray kangaroos are common in Australia’s southwest. They can weigh up to 120 pounds and stand over 4 feet tall. According to the Perth Zoo, they are herbivores and eat coarse grasses and some shrubs.
The males can be aggressive and fight people with the same techniques as they use with each other. They use their short upper limbs to grapple with their opponent, use their muscular tails to take their body weight, then lash out with both their powerful clawed hind legs.
According to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, “many people see large male kangaroos as placid grazing animals” but “the reality is that they can be aggressive towards people.”
In July, a kangaroo left a 67-year-old woman with cuts and a broken leg after it attacked her on a walk in Queensland, the BBC reported. A three-year-old girl suffered serious head injuries in an attack in New South Wales in March.
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In 1936, William Cruickshank, 38, died in a hospital in Hillston in New South Wales state on the Australian east coast months after he’d been attacked by a kangaroo.
Cruickshank suffered extensive head injuries including a broken jaw as he attempted to rescue his two dogs from a large kangaroo, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported at the time.